By Steve Vantreese
An ever-present disease that killed thousands of deer in Kentucky in 2017 appears to be going easy on the state's whitetails this year.
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD is a typically fatal viral ailment in deer that is transmitted by the bite of midges, "no-see-ums," that hatch from the mud along banks of water bodies in late summer and early fall.
EHD tends to flare during hot, dry periods when the midges arise from shorelines exposed by lower water conditions -- and during which deer hang closer to the fewer water sources that are available. Many of the affected deer die and are found at or in ponds, creeks or other water sources during this time.
The conditions in which EHD arises usually come to a halt with the first freezing conditions of autumn, the time when the biting midges are knocked out by the cold. Consequently, there likely are a few more weeks during which the virus could show.
But thus far, Kentucky has seen reports of very few potential cases of EHD in dead and dying deer this season.
"If anything, it's a lower number of cases than usual," said Gabe Jenkins, biologist and deer program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.
Jenkins said far western Kentucky went through a hot, dry period earlier in September when circumstances seemed to be right for EHD transmission, but so far there are no signs of even a modest outbreak. The most recent stretch of rainy weather even makes EHD emergence less likely, he said.
Last year, a moderate to heavy outbreak of EHD was seen in Kentucky, the worst of it concentrated in far eastern and southeastern counties. About 4,500 suspected cases of the viral ailment were reported in those eastern locales.
Meanwhile in 2017, while the East was getting thumped, western Kentucky counties varied from an apparent low number of suspected cases to none at all. The KDFWR noted no official reports of apparent EHD deer deaths in most Jackson Purchase counties.
The toll on the deer population in some eastern counties was significant enough to affect deer harvest zone regulations there when managers adjusted the rules for the 2018-19 hunting seasons.
So far, nothing of the sort appears to be cooking on the EHD front this year.
To the north, Illinois has its own vigilance ongoing. This season, Illinois Department of Natural Resources personnel have logged reports of 55 suspected EHD cases in 17 counties. A very few cases have been reported from the far south, including Pope and Alexander counties.
EHD is not harmful to humans or pets, the greatest human concerns typically being the impact the disease can have on the deer population. At this point of early fall, that impact would seem to be negligible this year.
• Midnight Sunday is the deadline to apply for Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources-managed quota hunts for deer and waterfowl this fall and winter.
State-regulated hunts at wildlife management areas and state parks are limited to participants who apply for and are drawn in a computer lottery to receive quota permits.
Quota hunt applications, no longer available via telephone, can only be made online at the KDFWR website, www.fw.ky.gov. On the website, click under "Hunting," and then "Quota hunts" on the drop-down menu. There is a minimum fee of $3 for each hunt application made.
Quota hunts in this region include a firearms deer hunt and waterfowl hunts on Ballard WMA, shotgun/muzzleloader and shotgun mentor hunts on West Kentucky WMA, a winter firearms deer hunt at Lake Barkley State Resort Park and an archery/crossbow hunt at Kenlake State Resort Park.
• The Land Between the Lakes' Woodlands Nature Station next weekend will host an Outdoors Kids Festival with a line-up of youngster-friendly outdoors activities and programs.
Activities are scheduled 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both Saturday, Oct. 6, and Sunday, Oct. 7. An extra next Saturday is a canoeing adventure out of Energy Lake Campground, open to kids age 5 and older, 4:30-6:30 p.m. The fee for the paddling activity is $25 per canoe, and registration and full deposit by calling 270-924-202 are required in advance.
Admission to the Nature Station during the weekend programs is $5 for those ages 13 and up, $3 for kids ages 5-12 and free for younger children. For full schedule information, phone 270-924-2299 or see the website www.landbetweenthelakes.us.
• Monday, Oct. 1, will bring opening days for crossbow deer and wild turkey hunting in Kentucky. Crossbow hunters can join archery hunter in the woods, bowmen having had options for the quest since Sept. 1, the first Saturday in September.
Crossbow hunting this year is scheduled for Oct. 1-21 and Nov. 10-Dec. 31. A proposed regulation to begin crossbow hunting earlier and greatly expand the number of days of the season is pending before the Kentucky General Assembly and, if passed, would take effect in 2019.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 270-575-8650.
• Monday also brings the beginning of Kentucky's raccoon and opossum hunting season. There is no harvest limit on these critters in the quest that's usually undertaken by hunters with "treeing" dogs.
Coons and 'possums are generally lumped in with furbearer and small game hunting, but the abundance of these night-roaming species allows an earlier opening than the furbearer/small game start-up that falls on Nov. 12 this year. These seasons regularly are set to begin on the Monday following the opening weekend of the state's firearms deer hunting season (Nov. 10-11).